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Taraji P. Henson Says ‘Being Vulnerable’ Is Her Biggest Strength: ‘I Lean Into That’ (Exclusive)

Award-winning actress Taraji P. Henson might be able to add top-notch life coach to her already impressive resume.

Henson, 53, stepped out for the TIME100 Gala in New York City on Thursday, April 25, to celebrate being named one of the outlet’s most influential people of the year. When asked about her path to success, the Hidden Figures star credited one vital trait.

“My strength is in my vulnerability. I lean into that because that’s where the strength is,” she exclusively told Us Weekly. “In order to fix or change anything, you have to be vulnerable. You must, and that takes heart. That’s brave. Being vulnerable, trying to be strong. People do that every day.”

Henson added that there’s power in letting people see you cry, noting, “It’s human.”

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The actress was lauded for her authenticity by Mary J. Blige, who penned an essay about Henson for TIME in celebration of her honoree status.

Taraji P Henson Says Her Strength Is Her Vulnerability
Taraji P. Henson Gotham/WireImage

“What I love most about [Taraji] is that she is unapologetically herself,” Blige, 53, wrote. “Taraji is a real woman — she doesn’t bite her tongue, and she’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. She’s always true and authentic, and she’s just as fearless onscreen, which is why she’s one of my favorite actors.”

She added, “Even though she doesn’t need any advice, I’ll say this to my beautiful friend: Taraji, my sis, keep being yourself and keep doing what you’re doing. There’s nobody like you. I love you.”

Taraji P Henson Says Her Strength Is Her Vulnerability
Taraji P. Henson Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for TIME

Henson, who arrived at the TIME100 ceremony wearing an emerald Thom Browne ensemble, had plenty to celebrate on the red carpet. Along with the outlet’s prestigious award, she’s also gearing up to release her debut children’s book, You Can Be a Good Friend (No Matter What!), which hits shelves June 18. Set on the first day of school, Henson tells the story of Lil TJ, a young girl who is relentlessly bullied for being different from her peers.

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The protagonist was born from a personal place. “Little TJ is the little girl inside of me that I still let thrive,” Henson told Us on Thursday. “What I love about her is that when she’s met with obstacles in life, she always sees the glass is half full. It’s so easy to see it as half empty, right? So I’m trying to train these babies at a young age to see it as half full. And it’s your choice to do so.”

She added, “You can choose joy at any moment.”

Looking back on her Hollywood career, Henson feels “honored” and “grateful” to have been given a platform. “When my celebrity started to rise, I didn’t want to fumble the ball because I know it’s a blessing to be in this position,” the Empire alum told Us. “I made a pact with God and I was like, ‘I’m going to share this gift with the world, but not just on the screen. But because you’ve blessed me so much, I want to go out and try to bless others.’ So that’s what I try to do because this thing called at is bigger than me.”

With reporting by Andrew Nodell

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